Bio-Human Ecology
Livelihood & Anthropology
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Lesson learnt from community development approach based on cultural identity of ethnic groups in Luang Prabang, Laos
Author: CHESH LAOs
Publication Date: March 2009
Pages: 28
Publisher: www.speri.org
Keywords: Human ecology, community development, cultural identity, capacity improvement, poverty alleviation, community ownership, natural resource governance, customary law, traditional institution, animism, traditional cultivation, customary law network in sustai
With approximate 10 years of CHESH Lao and local authorities’ advice and support, communities of villages of Long Lan, Xiang Da and Nam Kha have achieved short term objectives and partially mid term objectives. They are able to control, decide, identify strategy and carry out development activities by themselves. Long Lan became a pilot model of sustainable NRM base on their own traditional customary laws and indigenous knowledge. Community spirits, belief and traditional cultural practices of Lao Lum of Xiang Da village are consolidated clearly. Poverty is not so persistent to Khmu people in Nam Kha village. Khmu are not ‘unable to develop’ as said by someone before.

According to CHESH Lao experiences, in order to obtain success in cultural identity based community development approach, it is neccessary to study community values thoroughly and arrange reasonably ‘value’ differences between various ethnic groups, ethnic people and researcher, between beneficiaries and development agencies, between tradition and modernization, between economics, environment and traditional culture, etc. To meet that requirement, we do not merely need time, fund, intellectual, but also the development staff’s attitude of respectful listening and insight towards community.

‘Rural’ is a great concept, that includes diversity of culture, nature, social structure, institution. Therefore, this evaluation report cannot become universal for sustainable rural development, as what required by Laotian government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. CHESH Lao lessons learnt from case study and pilot model experiment at village level is suggestions for participants of this workshop, authorities and socio-political organizations of different levels, research institutes and researchers. From our suggestion, they may continue thinking and contributing ideas for the next development steps, which may include further action research, theoritical research, critiques, analysis or policy advocacy for the sake of rural mountainous development at local, national or Mekong regional levels. We subjectively believe that, rural mountainous areas – where various ethnic groups live, new challenges of equality of opportunity, rights for livelihood security, indigenous knowledge, cultural identity preservation, sustainable NRM are encreasingly faced. More essentially, it is the challenge of participation in building up and practice of civil political rights for each citizen in the coming time.
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